Working in Clark County: Jennifer Powell, yarn store owner

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant

Published:

 

Jennifer Powell was hooked as soon as she picked up the knitting needles. She didn’t make award-winning projects at first, but she honed her skills while laid up with an injured ankle. The idea of buying a yarn store got into her head, and she couldn’t shake it. She bought her store in Washougal on April Fool’s Day 2010.

Name: Jennifer Powell.

Job/employer: Owns Wooly Wooly Wag Tails Yarns, 982 E St., Washougal, www.woolywoolywagtailsyarns.com, 360-835-9649.

How you got into business: I had been doing environmental work for Fort James, the Camas paper mill. In 2000, Georgia-Pacific bought out Fort James and offered early outs. I took the offer and retired.

I started knitting and loved it from the start. While I was still doing consulting work, I injured my ankle and was laid up for about three months. During my recovery, I spent a lot of time knitting and became a regular customer of the Washougal store then called Crewel World. The previous owner had operated the shop for 24 years and was getting tired of it. She started talking to me about buying the store. After the idea was in my head, it started growing. I bought the store on April Fool’s Day 2010.

Age: 62.

Residence: Dougan Falls, Skamania County.

One word to describe yourself: Genuine.

How did you pick the store’s name? I wanted a name that would indicate its a fun, friendly place. And I am a “dog person.” Our first idea was Wagtail Yarns, but I learned there is a company in Australia that sells Wagtail Yarns. Several of us were pondering a new name and came up with Wooly Wooly Wag Tails Yarns. It stuck.

Most rewarding part of job: Getting to interact with the people, without a doubt. I run it the way I consider an old-time yarn shop should be run. My staff and I teach people to knit or crochet for free. The shop also has a social knitting time. Anyone is welcome to work on their own project. If they need help, we are available without charge.

I get to teach different knitting techniques, and many people discover they are much better than they thought. They can make something they are proud of.

Most challenging part of job: Picking the right inventory. I try to determine what the customers’ needs are going to be. I rely on my staff’s choices. I try to buy some skeins of yarn that are not too expensive, so someone can do a project for about $20.

Personal/business philosophy: Keep the customer happy, teach them what they need to know and give them a good ear to listen.

Something you would like to do over: I don’t think I would do anything over about my business. I walked into this without any retail experience at all. If I would have known more, I might not have bought the shop. I am still learning. It’s an invaluable experience to learn by hard knocks.

Best feature of my Clark County community: The quality of life. And my husband loves it, too.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: I like shopping in the little shops in Camas and Washougal and walking the Columbia River Dike Trail in Washougal.

Hobbies: I love cooking.

Volunteer activities: I am so busy with the shop, I can’t volunteer right now. Every couple of months we invite folks to buy dog or cat food to donate to the West Columbia Humane Society shelter. If they bring me the receipt, I will give them $10 off their next purchase.

Favorite travel destination: Island of Capri, Italy.

Most interesting book in past 12 months: I am reading “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Most interesting play/movie/arts event: I enjoyed the movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

Something you want to do within five years: I like day-to-day living and haven’t made any specific plans.

Person you’d most like to meet: I would have loved to have met Abraham Lincoln. He seemed to have a good understanding of the human condition.

It would be interesting to meet somebody like Matt Damon and his circle of friends, like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Steven Spielberg. These people have a notion of how to help people and have the means to do it. And Spielberg’s movies have taught us many things.